Microsoft Tries Getting Social With Display Ads

Microsoft has hitched up with Bazaarvoice to inject consumer reviews and ratings into its display ads. It’s the first of several socialish capabilities the company will offer advertisers in the coming months.

Over time, Microsoft’s new “people powered stories” will let media buyers incorporate user-generated videos, expert blogs, and even discussion forum content into their display ads. But not yet. When the PPS product launches next month, it’ll be strictly a ratings game.

Jennifer Creegan, Microsoft’s GM for display advertising experiences, pitched the new social selling strategy at Social Media Week in New York today. Her message is that social can be useful and relevant, unlike a certain about-to-go-public firm that shall remain nameless.

“While we are still in the early stages of unlocking the potential of social advertising, I am confident that we are moving into a world where the impact of social advertising will move beyond a ‘Like’ to a world where you can create and measure the value of social ads,” she wrote in a blog post.

Some will question whether these ads are really social. Bazaarvoice and review pioneer Amazon undoubtedly connect people and create utility with their ratings products, but whether they are supporting social-type interactions is open to debate.

During a pilot program, Microsoft integrated ratings-enabled ads  into a back-to-school campaign for Windows 7 (pictured). The campaign, aimed at college students hankering for a new computer, ran across the Microsoft Media Network. According to a brand lift study, Microsoft says the ads delivered a 6.3 percent lift in purchase intent and 13.5 percent lift in unaided brand awareness.

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Twitter reactions came quickly after Creegan’s presentation. Here’s one, from Social Media Week attendee Doug Winfield:

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